Adjustment of status enables non-citizens, who are already in the U.S., to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status ("LPR" or "green card holder") without ever leaving the U.S.
Non-citizens who intend to immigrate to the U.S. and live here permanently, must apply and qualify for LPR status. This process has several major stages. It always starts with a petition to USCIS. Their approval is needed before an application for LPR status can be submitted. After receiving this approval, a non-citizen can apply for LPR status in one of two ways.
They can apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, which is called "consular processing". Once admitted into the U.S. with this visa, the non-citizen becomes an LPR.
Or, in some instances, they can apply to "adjust status" without leaving the U.S. When their adjustment of status application is approved, they become an LPR without having to leave the U.S. and re-enter.
There are many reasons why a non-citizen who is already in the U.S. would prefer to remain here and adjust status rather than travel abroad to undergo consular processing, particularly if staying here causes less disruption to their work or family life. Of course, some non-citizens must adjust status in the U.S. because they cannot safely return to their home country to consular process. And there are others who, regardless of their preference, cannot adjust status in the U.S. because they do not meet the relevant criteria. For example, the last time they entered the U.S. they weren't "inspected and admitted" or "paroled" into the country. Or, in some cases, they can't adjust status because of other reasons related to the terms of their non-immigrant status (e.g. perhaps they stayed too long or worked without authorization.) Those who do meet the criteria, however, can apply to adjust status if this process works better for them than going abroad to consular process. Some non-citizens can actually submit their initial petition and apply to adjust status at the same time, a process which is commonly called a "onestep" petition. For more information, Contact Us for an initial consultation.